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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Mark 12

Introduction

CHAP. XII.

In a parable of the vineyard let out to unthankful husbandmen, Christ foretelleth the rejection of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles: he avoideth the snare of the Pharisees and Herodians about paying tribute to Caesar: convinceth the Sadducees of their error, who denied the resurrection: resolveth the scribe, who questioned what was the first commandment: refuseth the opinion which the scribes held of Christ; bidding the people to beware of their ambition and hypocrisy: and commended the poor widow for her two mites above all.

Anno Domini 33.

Verse 10

Mark 12:10. Is become Is made.

Verse 11

Mark 12:11. This, &c.— By the Lord was it so made, and it is wonderful, &c.

Verse 13

Mark 12:13. To catch him 'Αγρευσωσι is a metaphorical word, borrowed from the chase, and signifies to run down, or to take a prey in hunting. Some render it, to make a prey of; and Dr. Heylin, to ensnare. See Matthew 22:16.

Verse 16

Mark 12:16. Superscription? Inscription. Doddridge.

Verse 19

Mark 12:19. Master, Moses wrote, &c.— The Sadducees are thought by many to have agreed with the Samaritans in rejecting all the other parts of holyScripture but the five books of Moses. See the Inferences from Matthew 22:0. But there are others who strenuously maintain the contrary; and it is most reasonable to believe, that they did not absolutely reject the other books of the Old Testament, but only gave a great preference to the Pentateuch; and, laying it down as a principle to receive nothing as an article of faith, which could not be proved from the law, if any thing was urged from other parts of Scripture that could not be deduced from Moses, they would explain it in some other way: and this might be sufficient to induce our Lord to bring his argument to prove the resurrection from what Moses had said, and to confirm it by that part of Scripture which was most regarded by the Sadducees, and upon which they now had grounded their objection to it. See Serrarius, Lightfoot, and Doddridge.

Verse 24

Mark 12:24. Do ye not therefore err, &c.— Does not the error you are fallen into arise from your ignorance both of the Scriptures, and of the power of God? Heylin. This translation is rather paraphrastical: Wynne renders it more literally, Do ye not err on this account (namely) because ye knew not the Scriptures, nor, &c.? in St. Matthew, what is here expressed by a question, is delivered affirmatively: Ye do err. See Matthew 22:29.

Verse 26

Mark 12:26. As touching, &c.— As concerning.

Verse 29

Mark 12:29. Is one Lord: See the note, on Deu 6:4 on Mat 22:37-38 and the Inferences at the end of that chapter.

Verse 33

Mark 12:33. Is more than all whole burnt-offerings That is, "is more acceptable to God, and important to mankind." See Hosea 6:6.

Verse 34

Mark 12:34. Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. Jesus applauded the piety and wisdom of the scribe's reflection, by declaring, that the person who made it, was not far from the kingdom of God, or from being a real Christian. He had expressed sentiments becoming a subject of God's kingdom, and such as might have a happy influence in disposing him to embrace the Gospel in sincerity, by which he might obtain a share in all the blessings of the children of God. It is added, that no man, after that, durst ask him any questions: the plain meaning of which is, they asked him no more such captious questions; for the memory of this confusion impressed their minds, during the short remainder of Christ's continuance among them; and he was soon removed from them, so that they had no further opportunities of doing it, when that impression was worn off.

Verse 37

Mark 12:37. And the common people heard him gladly. They heard with great attention and pleasure; for the clear and solid answers which he returned to the ensnaring questions of his foes, gave them a high opinion of his wisdom, and shewed them how far he was superior to their most renowned rabbies; whose arguments to prove their opinions, and answers to the objections that were raised against them, were, generally speaking, but mean and trifling, compared to his. Besides, the common people were neither so much prejudiced in behalf of the commonly-received opinions, nor so much interested, as the scribes or other teachers.

Verse 38

Mark 12:38. Long clothing, Long garments, or robes. Mark 12:39. Rooms] Seats.

Verse 41

Mark 12:41. And Jesus sat over-against the treasury, Jesus was now in the treasury, or that part of the women's court, where the chests were placed for receiving the offerings of those who came to worship. These chests, being thirteen in number, had each of them an inscription fixed to the pillars of the portico which surrounded the court, and signifying for what use the offerings put into them were destined. Hence the propriety of St. Mark's expression, Jesus sat over-against the treasury; he sat in the portico of the women's court, opposite to the pillars where the chests for receiving theofferingsofthepeople were fixed. From these voluntary contributions they bought wood for the altar, salt, and other necessaries, not provided for any other way. It was in this court of the women, according to the Talmudists, that the libation of water from Siloam was made annually at the feast of tabernacles, as a solemn public thanksgiving and prayer for the former and latter rain; to which rite it is supposed that our Lord alluded, John 7:38.

Verses 42-44

Mark 12:42-44. She threw in two mites, which make a farthing, &c.— Κοδραντης . This coin in value was no more than three-fourths of our farthing: wherefore the offering given by this poor widow was very small in itself, though in another respect it was a great gift, being all that she had, even all her living. We can hardly suppose, that at each of the chests there were officers placed to receive and count the money which the people offered, and to name the sum aloud before they put it in; it is more reasonable to believe, that each person put his own offering privately into the chest, through aslit in its top. Wherefore, by mentioning the particular sum which the poor widow put in, as well as by declaring that it was all her living, our Lord shewed that nothing was hidden from his knowledge; and at the same time, to encourage charity, and to shew that it is the disposition of the mind, not the magnificence of the offering, which God regards, our Lord applauded this poor widow, as having given more in proportion than they all. They did cast in of their abundance, out of their superfluoussubstance,— εκ του περισσευοντος αυτοις ; their offerings, though great in respect to her's, bare but a small proportion to their estates; whereas she cast in of her want,εκ της υστερησεως αυτης . Her offering was the whole of her income for that day, and perhaps the whole of the money in her possession at that time Ολον τον βιον αυτης,—the whole of her substance. See the Inferences. Some render the last verse,—For all they did cast in out of their abundance; but she, out of what she wanted for herself, did cast in all that she had, even all that she had to live upon.

Inferences drawn from the widow's mites.—The sacred wealth of the temple consisted either in stuff, or in coin; for the one the Jews had a house, for the other chests. At the concourse of all the males thrice a year, upon occasion of the solemn feasts, the oblations of all kinds were liberal; our Saviour, as taking pleasure in the prospect, sets himself to view those offerings whether for holy or charitable uses.

Those things which we delight in, we love to behold: the eye and the heart will go together: and can we think, O Saviour, that thy glory has diminished aught of thy gracious respects to our beneficence? or that thine acceptance of our charity was confined to the earth? Even now, that thou sittest on the right hand of thy Father's glory, thou seest every hand that is stretched out to the relief of thy poor saints here below; and if vanity have power to stir up the liberality of some out of a conceit to be seen of men, how should faith encourage our bounty in knowing that we are seen of thee, and accepted by thee? Alas! what are we the better for the notice of those perishing impotent eyes, which can only view the outside of our actions, or for that kind of applause which vanishes in the lips of the speaker? Thine eye, O Lord, is piercing and retributive; as to see thee is perfect happiness, so to be seen of thee in favour is true contentment and glory.
And dost thou, O God, see what we give thee, and not see what we take away from thee? Are our offerings more noted than our sacrileges? Surely thy mercy is not more quick-sighted than thy justice! In both kinds our actions are reviewed, our account is kept. With thine eye of knowledge thou seest all that we do; but what we do well, thou seest with thine eye of approbation. Thus didst thou probably now behold these pious and charitable oblations.—How well wert thou pleased with this variety? Thou sawest many rich men give much, and one poor widow give more than they, in lesser room.

The Jews were now under the Roman pressure. They were all tributaries, yet many of them rich, and many of those rich men were liberal to the common chest. Hadst thou seen those many rich give little, we probably had heard of thy censure; thou expectest a proportion between the giver and the gift, between the gift and the receipt: where that fails, the blame is just. But Jesus saw a poor widow casting in two mites.

It was misery enough that she was a widow; the married woman is under the careful provision of a husband; but poverty was here added to the sorrow of her widowhood; she was not more desolate than needy.

Yet this poor widow gives!—and what?—An offering like herself;—two mites. Alas! poor woman! who was poorer than thyself?—Wherefore was that Corban, but for the relief of such as thou?—Who should receive, if such are the givers! Thy mites were something to thee, nothing to the treasury!

Some thrifty neighbour might, perhaps, have suggested this probable discouragement; Jesus publishes and applauds her bounty; He called to him his disciples, &c. Mark 12:43. While the rich put in their offerings, we see no disciples called; it was enough that Christ noted their gifts only:—but, when the widow comes, with her two mites, the domestics of Christ are immediately summoned to assemble, and taught to admire this munificence. A solemn preface makes way for her praise, and her mites are rendered more precious than the talents; she gave more than they all; more, not only in respect of the mind of the giver, but also of the proportion of the gift, as hers, a mite, was more to her than pounds to them. Pounds were little to them, two mites were all to her. They gave out of their abundance, she out of her necessity. That which they gave, left the heap less, yet a heap still; she gives all at once, and leaves herself nothing. Thus did the give, not merely more than any, but more than they all.

O Father of Mercies, who dost not so much regard what is taken out, as what is left behind; thou lookest at once into the bottom of her heart, and the bottom of her purse, and esteemest her gift according to both. Thou neither seest as man, nor valuest as man: man judges by the worth of the gift, thou judgest by the mind of the giver, and the proportion of the remainder. Alas! what have we but mites, and those of thine own lending? It is the comfort of our meanness, that our affections are valued, and not our presents. If I had more, O God, thou shouldst have it; had I less, thou wouldst not despise it who acceptest the gift according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.

Yea, Lord, what have I but two mites,—a soul and a body? Mere mites, yea, not so much, compared to thine infinity? O that I could perfectly offer them up unto thee, according to thine own right in them, and not according to mine! How graciously wouldst thou be sure to accept them! How happy shall I be in thine acceptance!

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Since the Jews had wickedly rejected their Messiah, he sets forth before them in parables the guilt and ruin coming upon them in consequence thereof. The parable of the vineyard we had before; Matthew 21:33. The scope and design of it is, to charge them with their continual rejection and persecution of God's prophets from the days of their forefathers to that hour, the measure of whose guilt they were now about to fill up in the murder of the Son of God; and thus they would bring down the temporal and eternal wrath of God upon their devoted heads; who, instead of the Jewish people, would admit the Gentiles into his visible communion in their stead, and, in spite of all their envy and enmity, erect his glorious church on that one foundation and chief corner-stone the Messiah, whom they rejected; and hereby make his marvellous power and grace evident to all. The parable was too plain for them to mistake the meaning: the chief priests and elders perceived that it was levelled at them; and, enraged beyond measure at his boldness, though they dared not apprehend him publicly, they consulted how they could privately get him into their power, and cut him off. Note; (1.) God expects from those who are placed in his vineyard, the church, that they should render him that tribute of love and duty, for which they stand so highly indebted. (2.) In all ages the true ministers of Christ have met with the cruellest usage; and usually their bitterest persecutors have been those who pretended a divine commission, and to be labourers in God's vineyard. (3.) God will have a church and people in the world, whatever opposition may be formed against them. (4.) They who refuse to be convinced by the truth of God's word, are generally exasperated both against the minister and his message; and thus what was sent as a savour of life unto life, to them becomes a savour of death unto death.

2nd, We have a new attempt made by the Pharisees and Herodians, bitter enemies to each other, but closely leagued against Christ. They wanted to catch up something which might serve to accuse him, and they thought they had a question which would not fail, either to render him obnoxious to the civil powers, or blast his reputation with the people, should he enforce subjection to the Roman yoke, which they so abhorred. Pretending therefore great respect to Christ, as a person of unspotted integrity, and above the fear of men, they bring to him a case of conscience, as if they wished to be guided by his superior judgment. The question was, whether it was lawful to pay tribute to Cesar or not? He sees their hypocrisy, and confounds their devices; bidding them produce the tribute money, and tell him whose image and superscription it bore. On their saying Cesar's, he bids them render to Cesar his own. By admitting the currency of his coin, they owned their subjection to him, and were bound to pay the tribute required in return for the protection they enjoyed; while God's right over them remained unalienably the same: in all religious concerns he alone was the Lord of their conscience, and to all his commands unreserved submission must he paid,—an answer so wise, so convincing and unexceptionable, as even astonished his very enemies. Note; (1.) The professions of false friends are usually most specious, when their designs are most malignant. (2.) It is a dangerous thing for ministers to interfere about civil rights: their business is to teach subjection to the powers that are. (3.) Hypocrisy, however artful the vail, cannot be concealed from the knowledge of him who trieth the reins and the heart.

3rdly, The Sadducees, the freethinkers of the age, came next, fraught with wisdom and sophistry, and thought that, though others had been unequal to the talk, they were able to propose a question which the wisdom of Jesus would find it hard to answer. But they were deceived to their cost, their ignorance exposed, their errors detected, and that resurrection which they denied proved by the clearest evidence of Moses, whose authority they admitted; see Matthew 22:23; Matthew 22:46. Note; (1.) Many infidels pretend a reverence for the Scriptures, in order the more artfully to introduce their suggestions, to shake our faith, and destroy the credit of the word of God. (2.) It is impossible but they should err, not knowing the Scriptures, who, instead of submitting their fallen reason to God's word, insist that even the doctrines of revelation shall be first cited to this fallacious tribunal, and be admitted only so far as they are pleased to stamp them as rational; and, if found incomprehensible, rejected as absurd.

4thly, Struck with the force of our Lord's reasoning, one of the scribes, who were of the sect of the Pharisees, acknowledged that he had answered well; yet, willing to try his judgment farther, he proposes,

1. An important question for our Lord's solution: which is the first commandment of all? the greatest, most necessary to be observed, and most influential over the whole tenor of our conduct?

2. Christ fully answers him. The first and great commandment is the love of God. He, who is God alone, demands and deserves the whole heart and mind, and soul and strength: and in this one word is comprehended the principle of all holy obedience, and that which necessarily engages in his worship and service the whole body, soul, and spirit; and, without his love, nothing acceptable to him can be performed. The second commandment is of a like comprehensive nature, enjoining us to love our neighbour as ourselves, fervently and unfeignedly, behaving to him with such justice and mercy, as we, if our circumstances were reversed, might justly desire and expect from him. These two comprehend every supposable duty towards God and man; and there can be no greater commandment, since in these the whole law is fulfilled.

3. The scribe confesses the justness of our Lord's answer, convinced of its admirable propriety, and wisdom; and adds his testimony to the truth of his observations, that there is one only living and true God; and that to love, worship, and serve him with the most active powers of our souls, and to exercise this divine charity to our neighbour, is in God's account far more acceptable than the most expensive services, or all the ritual observances.
4. Christ approves of the judicious remarks that he made: he shewed himself a man of understanding, unbiassed by the generally-received traditions, and, as his mind appeared ingenuous and open to conviction, he was not far from the kingdom of God. In such a spirit, if he had examined the prophets, and weighed, under the divine benediction, the evidence of Christ's mission and miracles, he would be led into the truth, and become a member of the Messiah's kingdom.
5. From that time all the captious cavillers were silenced; such consummate wisdom appeared in him, that none durst any more encounter him. Note; (1.) They who improve the light which God has given them, will receive an increase of it, and be led into all truth. (2.) Many a man goes to the borders of the truth, not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never enters into it—almost, but not altogether, a Christian.

5thly, They had frequently endeavoured to puzzle him with questions captious and difficult. Our Lord now poses them with a question, which, as expositors of the Scriptures, the scribes should have thoroughly understood.

1. The question was, how the Messiah, whom they all admitted to be David's son, could at the same time be David's Lord, as he expressly calls him, Psalms 110:1. This was a mystery to the scribes: not understanding the two-fold nature of the Messiah, as God and man, they could not possibly answer the question. Hereupon the common people, convinced how far Jesus in wisdom surpassed all their teachers, hearkened with delight to his divine discourses. Note; (1.) A babe in Christ understands more of the mysteries of godliness, than the wisest unenlightened scribe. (2.) Popularity, and the approbation of the people at large, is often cast as a reproach on the ministers of the Gospel by those who envy them, as the scribes of old did their Master.

2. He takes occasion to caution the people from being deceived by the sanctified appearance of their false teachers, whilst in fact they were slaves to pride and worldly-mindedness. They wore particular garments, long and trailing on the ground, or with fringes of extraordinary breadth, as a token of superior piety; and made long prayers, that to men they might appear of extraordinary devotion; but all that they did was hypocritical and designing, in order to gain the seat of pre-eminence and public salutations of high respect, and as a cloke under which to worm themselves into the confidence of widows, whom they plundered to enrich themselves: for which abominations they would bring down the heaviest wrath of God upon their souls. Note; (1.) Inordinate desire of human respect and honour is the sure symptom of a proud, worldly, and unmortified heart. (2.) Hypocrisy is among the most common and most crying sins. Beware of it.

6thly, For the maintenance of the temple-worship and sacrifices, there were coffers placed in the court for the reception of the free-will offerings of the people. Our Lord being seated near the treasury, where these stood, observed the people who cast in their money. Many of the rich gave much, as became them; but, among the rest, a poor widow came and cast in two mites. Highly applauding the deed, our Lord pointed her out to his disciples, as having presented a richer and more acceptable offering, than those who, out of their abundance, had given more liberally. They had enough left still to supply their wants; but she, out of love to the service, threw in her little all, trusting in divine Providence for her future sustenance. Note; (1.) Almsgiving is a most needful duty; and our Lord expects, according to our abilities, that we should be ready to distribute, willing to communicate: but he looks not merely at the gift, but the spirit and temper of the giver; for that stamps the offering with its value in his account. (2.) None can be supposed poorer than this widow; yet she gave. If we have but little, that must be no excuse; we must give our diligence to give of that little: and then it is accepted, according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. (3.) A truly gracious and charitable person will sometimes straiten himself to supply the more urgent wants of others, willing not only to his power, but above his power, to assist them.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Mark 12". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/mark-12.html. 1801-1803.